Ahead of a possible second attempt Friday to vote on a UN Security Council resolution declaring Israeli settlements illegal, sources speculated that Russia could use its veto to kill the measure, even if the United States would not.
Russia has traditionally backed anti-Israel measures, and generally supports the anti-Israel stance of the Arab nations. However, two Breitbart News sources suggested that Russia might use its veto, as one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council, to embarrass U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Obama administration had signaled, for several weeks, that it would not issue the customary veto of the UN Security Council resolution, and that it would instead abstain, allowing the measure to pass. Such a move would destabilize the diplomatic status quo and likely lead the Palestinians to make more aggressive demands.
A senior Israeli official told Breitbart News via e-mail:
President Obama and Secretary Kerry are behind this shameful move against Israel at the UN. The US administration secretly cooked up with the Palestinians an extreme anti Israeli resolution behind Israel’s back which would be a tailwind for terror and boycotts and effectively make the Western Wall occupied Palestinian territory. President Obama could declare his willingness to veto this resolution in an instant but instead is pushing it. This is an abandonment of Israel which breaks decades of US policy of protecting Israel at the UN and undermines the prospects of working with the next administration of advancing peace.
As Breitbart News’ Aaron Klein noted, the Palestinian-backed resolution is rife with legal and factual errors, and would have the effect of isolating Israel; legitimizing the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement; and weakening Israel’s bargaining position in peace talks, perhaps permanently.
Israel maintains that settlements are not illegal under international law, because there is no legitimate prior sovereign in the West Bank. Israel further wants the issue to be resolved in bilateral negotiations with the Palestinians, not through international pressure.
The Obama administration’s anticipated shift was expected to be a parting shot — perhaps in revenge — against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has opposed much of Obama’s Middle East agenda, particularly the Iran nuclear deal.
Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly due to deliver a speech on Thursday that would have slammed home the message. He canceled the speech after Egypt, which was to have introduced the Palestinian resolution, changed its mind.
On Thursday morning, President-elect Donald J. Trump had issued a strong statement urging Obama to veto the resolution, and also spoke with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. He was widely credited with postponing the vote.
But after Egypt backed down, four other nations with temporary membership on the UN Security Council that expires next week — New Zealand, Malaysia, Venezuela and Senegal — warned that they might introduce the resolution anyway on Friday if Egypt did not.
If the Obama administration persists with plans to let the resolution pass with at least nine votes in favor, it would fall to other permanent members of the UN Security Council to veto.
Of those remaining (China, Russia, France and the United Kingdom), Breitbart News sources speculated, Russia was the most likely to veto — though still a long shot. Its motivation for opposing the resolution would be to embarrass the Obama administration, and to cement Russia’s increasing leadership in the Middle East.
In the 1970s, U.S. foreign policy successfully displaced the Soviet Union from the region, bringing Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinians into a pro-American orbit. However, with the precipitous U.S. withdrawal from Iraq under Obama, and the refusal of the administration to do anything about the Syrian civil war, Russia has returned to a dominant role in the region. Even Israel is reportedly seeking a close accommodation with Russian President Vladimir Putin as U.S. leadership fades.
A Russian veto might create expectations of pro-Russia reciprocation from the incoming Trump administration in some form. It might also weaken Israel’s long-term position in the region. But it would also prevent a sudden, destabilizing shift in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, at least for the moment. The price to be paid might only become clear later.